Judge accuses CIA officials of fraud, unseals secret files

By Michael Doyle | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — A federal district judge ruled Monday that the CIA repeatedly misled him in asserting that state secrets were involved in a 15-year-old lawsuit involving allegedly illegal wiretapping.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth also ordered former CIA director George Tenet and five other CIA officials to explain their actions or face potential sanctions.

Lamberth also questioned the credibility of current CIA Director Leon Panetta, saying that Panetta's testimony in the case contained significant discrepancies, and rejected an Obama administration request that the case continue to be kept secret. He released hundreds of previously secret filings.

"The court does not give the government a high degree of deference because of its prior misrepresentations regarding the stated secrets privilege in this case," Lamberth wrote. "Although this case has been sealed since its inception to protect sensitive information, it is clear . . . that many of the issues are unclassified."

Lamberth's ruling comes as some members of Congress are questioning the CIA's credibility in a series of issues unrelated to the lawsuit, including allegations by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that she was lied to about waterboarding and questions of why Congress wasn't told for eight years about what reportedly was a plan to assassinate al Qaida operatives. Last month, Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee asked Panetta to withdraw a statement he made in May that it was not CIA policy to mislead Congress. The House members said it was clear from Panetta's own testimony about the unrevealed program that that was not the case.

The documents released Monday reveal a number of instances where Lamberth said the CIA misrepresented facts in the case, which was filed in 1994 by a former Drug Enforcement Agency officer who said his phone calls had been illegally intercepted while he was on duty in Burma.

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